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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 22    <>  MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2001

this & that

cityhall.jpg (38270 bytes)Where’s that old time religion? The Board of Supervisors observed an unscheduled moment of near-silence last Monday. The occasion: the pledge of allegiance to the flag. The assembled personages delivered the words with gusto until they reached the line, “One nation, under God.” You could have heard a pin drop.

M. Dennis Sanders offers a partial explanation:

Some people are SAINTS,
But don’t feel a need for YOUR or MY religion.
Why do we condemn them?
We do not have that right!

He might have added that support for the separation of church and state is obviously alive and well in City Hall.

Top echelon espionage. The Manchester Guardian of May 26 discusses a leaked report, to be published by the European Parliament this week, of “a shadowy, U.S.-led worldwide electronic spying network” known as Echelon. Although the hi-tech eavesdropping system was hatched as a way to identify industrial spies, the Guardian notes that nary a one has surfaced. But it has caught a lot of little fish in its ample net.

“One former member of the Canadian intelligence service, the CSE, claimed that every day millions of emails, faxes, and phone conversations were intercepted. The name and phone number of one woman, he said, was added to the CSE’s list of potential terrorists after she used an ambiguous word in an innocent call to a friend.”

“Disembodied snippets of conversations are snatched from the ether, perhaps out of context, and may be misinterpreted by an analyst who then secretly transmits them to spy agencies and law enforcement offices around the world," said intelligence expert James Bamford.

The “misleading information,” he added, “is then placed in NSA’s near-bottomless computer storage system, a system capable of storing 5 trillion pages of text, a stack of paper 150 miles high.”

What was that old warning about loose lips? Better watch those emails.

Bully for you. Don Hazen, writing for AlterNet, says, “The bully is back” in American politics. Watch out, he warns, for Scary Power, “bullying and brute strength exercised in the public sphere,” adding that membership in the club is limited: men of color and women of all hues need not apply.

What is this Scary Power? “Scary Power is the ability to control the public narrative to frame messages: globalization benefits all; environmentalists created the energy shortage; fair trade is a wishful dream. The scary guys’ control of the narrative also discourages action, isolates people from one another, and turns them off to engagement in public life. It breeds cynicism, hopelessness, and apathy.”

Hazen offers a list of the 13 Scariest White Guys, led by “co-presidents” Bush-Cheney and followed closely behind by media master Rupert Murdoch and Enron CEO Kenneth Lay. The surprising Number 13 is Yankee pitcher and headhunter Roger Clemens. “Close to George Bush senior, whom he visited several times at the White House, Clemens is also pals with Neil Bush, best known for his involvement with the failed Silverado Savings and Loan.” Sounds like Hazen’s a Red Sox fan.

bryantsq.jpg (24118 bytes)Where are they now? In case you haven’t wandered by the soon-to-be Bryant Square complex recently, you’ll be relieved to hear that work is progressing, undeterred by the rumored demise of dot.com-dom. What was long surrounded by a green tarp wall has now sprung an opening or two, so that curious minds can peek inside. What’s there? A big cement-lined hole in the ground, looking for all the world like a giant swimming pool. Heaven know we could use another one in the Mission.